by J. K. Rowling
Though I’ve written reviews for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (I read the first four before I started this blog) I wasn’t sure I was going to write one for this, the seventh book. I say this even though I loved this book — I felt Rowling was true to the story I thought she was telling, and I love that I could let myself get caught up in it.
But it seems half the English speaking (and a good portion of the non-English-speaking) world is reading or by now has read the book — and at this point, either you are a Harry Potter fan or you just don’t care. A review probably won’t change that; it probably shouldn’t. On the other hand, it seems so many series start out well but you lose interest before they finish up (Lemony Snickett, anyone?), or you just wait indefinitely for the end (insert your favorite drawn out sci fi series here) that it is worth noting that J. K. Rowling not only finished up her seven book series, she ended it well.
So why do I say that? Well first off, most of what I said in my review of book six that I hoped was coming in book seven actually happened. (This doesn’t make me smart; it makes J. K. Rowling smart.)
[Just in case you are one of the few people who doesn’t know what happens, who dies, etc. in book seven, this is your warning: spoilers, lots of ’em, are next up.]
I read this book in less than thirty-six hours: my partner and I picked up a copy the morning it came out and took turns reading chapters out loud, stopping to sleep that night but otherwise reading nonstop until it was finished. Because I had to know. Being in that position with a book is hella fun. It also makes it difficult to write anything like a proper review, so instead I’ll talk about what I loved, what surprised me, and what I think the best part was.
Things I loved
- We read it out loud, and several times the person not reading uttered what turned out to be the next line
- Dumbledore became more complex and thus more human
- I was really missing McGonagall, but when she finally showed up, she was exquisite
- Harry accepts responsibility, yet doesn’t really want power — that is a rare thing
- Neville became the hero I always wanted him to be
Things that surprised me
- Hermione effectively orphans herself
- The Malfoys really did love their son Draco that much
- They body count was really high (Mad-Eye Moody, Fred Weasley, Tonks and Lupin — and that’s naming most, not all names)
The best part
I won’t pick a single scene — though Ron’s return, or Molly’s fight to the death with Bellatrix do spring to mind. I won’t pick a single result, either, though Harry surviving and that not feeling like a cheat is a major accomplishment. Thing is, I don’t think the best part of this book (or the entire series) can be captured in one scene or one idea.
No, the best part is something that happens outside the books. It happens when people excitedly talk about, theorize, even fight over the books because we believe in Harry Potter’s world so completely doing so doesn’t seem like a crazy thing to do. (Though the Making Light thread on HP7 might be pushing it .)
The best thing is the part where I email a book group and tell them the bit where Harry plays dead and he thinks they are gonna mess with his body felt very Aslan to me, even though they did shave Aslan while he was still alive; then I go on to say the whole willing to sacrifice himself thing was very Aslan, only the Greatest Lion knew the deal he was making, and Harry didn’t. The best thing is that this book group was going to shut down, but no one could bear not to discuss book seven, so we waited. The best part was how, a week after finishing the book, Lisa and I are walking around Salem still talking about it, and I float the idea that Harry would have won in the end not because he was the wand’s master, but because he was the one who had enough soul left to cast spells and mean them. (When Harry first uses the cruciatus curse on Bellatrix he fails; we learn from her that you really have to mean it. There is no doubt Voldemort means to kill Harry — but does he have enough soul left to utter the killing curse and have it work?) The actions Harry and the inhabitants of his world take or fail to take matter to readers like me, because we bought into Rowling’s story and believed in her world.
It was a fantastic ride, I’m glad I took it. (And I’ll be taking it again: I’ve already reread the first book.)